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How to survive a toxic environment

Run. Fast.

You’ve been off work sick for a week. Stress-related sick leave. You felt tender spots on your body that you were sure were lumps. They weren’t, thank god. Your mind went straight to the worst case scenario, because that’s what it tends to do. And, because the person you’ve replaced in this job ignored signs that something was up. She’s spent the last year in treatment for cancer.

The phone rings. You see who’s calling and don’t answer. You wait till he’s left a voicemail and listen to it. As you hear his voice, you feel the fear rising in you.

He wants to have a meeting with you the next day. He doesn’t say why. The fear rises even higher, and your mind goes into overdrive.

“Does he want to fire me?”

“Does he want to reduce my hours?”

“What will I say if he says this?”

“What will I say if he says that?”

After a panicked hour or so, you have it all figured out. You have an answer for all the ifs and buts you can think of. Your answers tread that fine line — the one between standing up for yourself, and making sure you don’t get fired. You need this job — the longer you can stay in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be when he does fire you. Which he will. He made that crystal clear in your last conversation. The “you’re just plugging holes until I find good people” one. That’s the one that pushed you into the arms of your doctor.

You’re dreading the next day.

•  •  •

Still feeling shook some time later, you call me for moral support. And to ask why I think hearing his voice made you feel so scared. “Maybe it’s my subconscious protecting me”, you say. “What do you think?”

“I think you should get the hell out of there, that’s what I think,” is my reply. “You feel scared around him, because he’s toxic. Your not-so-sub-conscious is telling you to get away from him.”

“But if I quit, I won’t get unemployment insurance. I’ll only get that if he fires me,” you reply.

“Then do whatever you need to do to get fired,” I say.

•  •  •
It’s hard to believe we’re having this conversation. We’ve had it many times before — or one just like it. You’ve talked yourself down from it each time. Because you need this job — the longer you’re in it, the higher your unemployment insurance will be.

Yeah, I know.

But I don’t care about that. I really don’t.

Here’s what I care about.

I care about you. About having you around for as long as possible. About your health. But I feel like a stuck record, because I’m the only one talking about this.

Everyone else is talking about how lucky you are to have a job, especially ‘at your age’. You believe this, too.

I call bullshit on this way of thinking. Because this way of thinking will be the death of you. Really. Every minute you spend in that job, near that toxic man, is at least one minute off your life expectancy. You think you can take it, that you’re strong. But I call bullshit on that, too. No one walks away from toxic people unscathed. You might be fine on the surface, but that toxicity is eating away at you, somewhere. That’s what toxicity does. But you know that, don’t you. It ate away at the last person in your job. The one who’s been in cancer treatment for the last year.

So I beg you, please, please, please do whatever you need to do to get fired. Get away from that toxic man and his fear-based workplace. You don’t need that job — no one needs that job. You need something quite different.

You need to believe that your health is worth more than any job. That you’re worth more than the way you’re being treated. You need to believe that you deserve health and happiness.

I believe this. So can you believe it, too?

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).